I was fortunate to have been interviewed by Rolling Stone for an article about a TV show called “Harlem”, which is being called the “Black Women’s ‘Sex in the City’. The show discusses the challenges of dating and finding love. The author of the article and I spoke for about an hour. Unfortunately, due to length of the article, much of our conversation had to be cut. Thus, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few thoughts about what we discussed.
Our conversation started by validating that there are numerous challenges facing Black couples. Black Americans have the lowest marriage rate; the highest divorce rate; and the highest rate of never married persons compared to all racial and ethnic groups. We also have the highest out-of-wedlock birth rate with 70% of Black children being born to unwed parents. It is often said that if you want to tear down any society or community then tear down the family. Accepting that there is some validity to that premise suggests that the breakdown of the family has played a prominent role in some of the challenges plaguing the African American community. These challenges are not new. In fact, the etiology of many of these problems have origins that date back to slavery. More recently, since the civil rights era, there have been a multitude of structural constraints that have resulted in an intergenerational pattern of relationship dysfunction that has been difficult to correct.
We also discussed that the Black family has a host of strengths that have resulted in us being quite resilient. Although it may seem surprising, even during slavery times there were many two-parent households. This points to the importance of realizing the diverse tapestry of the Black family experience. That being said, the challenges must be addressed as this is creating a public health crisis.
Finally, we discussed that the media often presents the challenges facing Black couples as being exclusively sociological in nature (i.e., not enough Black men available to date Black women). Although there is validity to these sociological constraints, I emphasized during our interview that we also must examine this problem on an interpersonal, microsystem level of analysis because there is no social policy that can change what happens between a couple behind closed doors! Ultimately, the relationship challenges facing Black Americans is a complex matrix of sociological and psychological/interpersonal constraints. Thus, the solution will also require interventions on both the macrosystem and microsystem levels.